Monday, March 29, 2010
Hundreds of enraged protesters marched through the streets of Mogadishu on Monday to protest against the Shabab, a militant Islamist insurgent group, in one of the largest demonstrations in recent years.
Men, women and children flooded the rubble strewn center of town and shouted out slogans against the Shabab, who have steadily alienated the population by imposing amputations and digging up the graves of revered Islamic clerics.
“We don’t want grave diggers and we don’t want the Shabab!” the protesters yelled.
The protest was led by a moderate Islamist group of Sufi clerics who have driven the Shabab out of several towns in central Somalia. Sheik Abdulkadir Mohamed Somow, one of the Sufi clerics, told the crowd that their group, AhluSunna Wal Jama, “will not tolerate further the Shabab’s grave excavation activities in Mogadishu” and he called upon Somalis to wage holy war against the Shabab.
Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama recently signed a power sharing agreement with the transitional federal government, which controls only a small fraction of the Mogadishu, the capital. The agreement was intended to help the government go on the offensive against the Shabab in a planned upcoming military operation, which will most likely involve thousands of African Union peacekeepers.
The Shabab recently dug up at least seven graves of renowned Sufi clerics, according to Somali media reports. In 2008, the Shabab desecrated the graves of renowned Sufi clerics in areas under their control, pushing Sufi followers to take up arms.
The Sufi version of Islam, which is more mystical and centered on an “inner jihad,” is one of the more popular sects in Somalia.
The recent grave desecrations in some of Mogadishu’s neighborhoods seemed to make more people turn against the Shabab, who were already losing popular support because of their harsh interpretations of Islam.
The Shabab and their allies control more than half of south-central Somalia and have amputated the hands of thieves, stoned adulterers and flogged women for not being fully veiled. They have also killed many civilians, including students, with suicide bombs, and have recruited foreigners, including Americans, to fight for them.
Somalia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when clan militias toppled the central government and then turned on each other.
Mohammed Ibrahim reported from Mogadishu and Jeffrey Gettleman from Nairobi, Kenya
Picture: Anchors read the latest news from around the world this month in the studio at Radio Mogadishu, which opened in 1951. Photo: The New York Times.